Partners in the Park: The Montgomery County Conservation Corps

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Conservancy staff were busy during four of the last six weeks working with Montgomery County Conservation Corps (MCCC) cohort members in removing significant amounts of invasive, non-native plant species from the Park. MCCC cohorts, consisting of approximately seven members each day, removed tree of heaven, Oriental bittersweet, English ivy, porcelainberry, Japanese honeysuckle, bush honeysuckle, and other aggressive invaders from the historic “thumb” area, or narrow extension, of Meadow #5. Despite extreme cold, ice, and snow in late February and early March, the group never complained. In fact, on one particular day with a high temperature of just 18 degrees Fahrenheit, the group stopped for a few moments for a good old fashioned snowball fight!

Throughout MCCC’s work, it was apparent that the members were all about teamwork. Individuals called out for help when they needed it, exchanged tools, and occasionally combined muscle strength when sawing up an invasive tree or fallen log. Furthermore, as some members cut down bush honeysuckle, they passed larger pieces along to others that then broke them down into smaller pieces and neatly piled them up. Despite the nasty weather, the MCCC volunteers enjoyed the work in Dumbarton Oaks Park, debating who the best sports teams were, discussing how delicious the provided tea and homemade cookies were, and breaking out into rap songs, in the process!

Dumbarton Oaks Park Conservancy has a strong partnership with MCCC, as the cohort works in the Park several weeks each year. Funded by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, the Montgomery County Conservation Corps is a unique organization that provides out-of-school youth with unique education and work experience.  MCCC uses a comprehensive approach to working with youth 17-24 years of age, where they are provided opportunities to attain their GED and also gain hands-on experience while completing projects in the field designed around conservation principles.

In Dumbarton Oaks Park, working with the Conservancy, MCCC has adopted the historic Meadow #5 thumb, an area of the Park designed as an extension of open meadow by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s. Since this time, the thumb has been overcome with invasive species and also eroded due to stormwater runoff. Last year, MCCC worked with Ann Aldrich, restoration program director, to create a series of triage log dams that mitigate stormwater. This late winter and early spring, MCCC “daylighted” the thumb area and opened up historic sight lines by removing massive quantities of invasive plants. The Conservancy hopes to replant and reseed the Meadow #5 thumb with native grasses in the near future.

For more information on the Montgomery County Conservation Corps.

Written by Maria “MJ” Aguilar and Scott Einberger

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